Monday, July 2, 2007

Notes from Artistic Director Jamil Khoury

Welcome to Silk Road Theatre Project and the Merchant on Venice blog! Where The Bard Meets Bollywood or Shakespeare’s Met His Match in Shishir!

And if that doesn’t conjure up enough for you, then take it from our not-so-pat two sentence summary:

In Shishir Kurup's Merchant on Venice, Venice, Italy intersects with L.A.’s Venice Boulevard in a wickedly funny, wildly inventive and politically provocative re-imagining of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Written in iambic pentameter and vividly colored by Indian, American and Latino pop references, playwright Kurup transforms Shakespeare's original by injecting the story with Bollywood musical numbers, L.A. Punk, Hindu-Muslim tensions, and a distinctly American landscape.

Trust me. It’s even better than it sounds.

But anyway, as Silk Road’s world premiere of Shishir Kurup’s amazing new play approaches, you’ll be hearing from many of us, so be sure and check in at least once a week. Playwright Kurup, director Stuart Carden, and our entire cast and production team are at the helm of one of the most exciting and unique theatre experiences to come along in years.

Merchant on Venice was one of those plays I absolutely knew we had to produce about a third way into my first read. Aside from the brilliance, humor and utter subversiveness of the piece, I had long been looking for a play that explored the ever-sensitive terrain of Hindu-Muslim relations. It seemed that all the works submitted reflected a pretty clear cultural or political bias toward one community or the other (in the realm of introductions we’d say, “anti-Muslim play meet anti-Hindu play”). That is until Merchant on Venice came along.

As the husband of a South Asian American Muslim man, I have come to recognize that the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia is way too “”big” and complex and intersected and overlapped to explain away in sound bites or reduce to some sort of “opposing teams” paradigm. It is a relationship that is forever progressing and regressing; it is affectionate and adversarial, intimate and estranged, unifying and divisive. My own Arab-American background renders it all too easy for me to “situate” Hindus and Muslims within the rubric of Arabs and Jews. And while analogies can certainly be drawn, it is the differences that interest me most. Either vicariously or through first hand experiences, I have intuited and assimilated many of the distinct contexts (cultural, historical, political, etc.) that inform Hindu-Muslim relations (albeit through my own very subjective and very American lens), and thus found in Kurup’s script a kindred spirit of sorts, an affirmation of my own journeys, both within the South Asian Diaspora, and within the always rich, sometimes conflicted arenas that bond Hindus and Muslims to each other.

So I thank you for taking this journey with us. Fasten you seatbelts as they say.

Jamil Khoury
Artistic Director

No comments: